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A Dalhousie University survey shows more Canadians are gardening during the COVID-19 crisis. Anxiety may play a role
By Sylvain Charlebois
They say gardening is good for the soul. Apparently many Canadians agree as they have opted to ‘pandemic garden’ this year.
Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, in partnership with
Angus Reid, recently released a study on home gardening, just in time
for Thanksgiving. The survey was conducted earlier this month and
included more than 1,000 Canadians from across the country.
report suggested that 51 per cent of respondents grow at least one
variety of fruit or vegetable in a garden. Of those, 17.4 per cent
started growing food at home in 2020 during COVID-19 – that’s almost one
in five Canadians.
A total of 67 per cent of new gardeners in 2020 agree that the pandemic influenced their decision to start growing food at home.
British Columbians and Prairie residents are home food gardeners than
are not. Ontario is almost exactly even between those who grow food at
home and those who don’t, at 50.1 and 49.9 per cent respectively. Of all
respondents who grow food at home in Atlantic Canada, 23.7 per cent
started gardening this year, the highest proportion of new gardeners in a
region of Canada.
may have something to do with why people gardened so much this year.
The report showed many Canadians remain concerned about our food
supplies with 52.6 per cent of respondents at least somewhat worried
about food shortages during COVID-19.
Given that the survey was conducted just days ago, that was surprising.
seven per cent of respondents are not worried about food shortages.
Among new home food gardeners, 53.9 per cent are worried about food
shortages compared to 55.2 per cent of longtime gardeners.
39.8 per cent of total respondents at least somewhat agree that finding
certain specific foodstuffs has been challenging during the pandemic.
Canadians are clearly concerned about food affordability, another
reason why perhaps many started to garden this year. Of total
respondents, 85 per cent are concerned that food prices will rise
because of the pandemic. That’s a lot.
arrangements were also evaluated. You don’t need a yard to grow food in
Canada. In fact, 18.6 per cent of gardeners are growing at least some
food on balconies. Of all respondents who grow food at home and live in
Quebec, 31.3 per cent grow at least some food on a balcony, the highest
percentage in the country.
total of 82.4 per cent of home food gardeners live in single-family
homes, which corresponds to the fact that 70.2 per cent of them grow at
least some of their home produce in their yards.
This was truly a stellar year for gardening but it remains unclear whether it will last.
lockdown in the spring got us to spend more time at home, which got
many to redefine their living space. Most importantly, given concerns
related to potential food shortages and affordability, new gardeners
simply wanted to take control over their food supply chain.
And gardening is a perfect compliment to cooking, which most of us have done plenty of since March.
is a good thing, even in the worst of times. As such, the report
provides several recommendations. For example, it recommends that
municipal governments increase awareness of their community gardens and
that studies be conducted among city residents to discover their level
of interest in growing their own food in a community garden.
report also states that given the number of condominium and apartment
home food gardeners, this presents a unique opportunity for condo
boards, renters’ groups and neighbourhood organizations to start home
food growing associations.
will be interesting to see if Canadians remain committed to gardening
in years to come, when our quest towards normalcy is complete.
Sylvain Charlebois is senior director of the agri-food analytics lab
and a professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University.
Lisa Mullins, a research associate at the School of Information
Management and Dalhousie University, co-authored this commentary.